Exterior paint layers build up over time, and the accumulation of paint films will eventually fill and obscure original millwork details. An example is this Brattle Street Colonial Revival-style house built-in 1887. Built for Annie Thorp, a daughter of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, it was inspired by her father’s eighteenth-century Georgian house nearby. The “revival” style was exactly that, a late Victorian homage to a much earlier traditional style. Even so, 1887 to the present was plenty of time for 18 layers of paint to accumulate, effectively filling the gaps in the small dentils in the cornice and likewise distorting other details.
Stripping the paint also gives us a clean start on the paint film, preventing scaling that will cause premature failure of a paint film, and removing alligatoring, a defect that arises when oil paint is applied at too low a temperature. One coat of oil primer was applied, followed by two coats of latex, establishing a new protective base for the woodwork, and restoring the appearance of the woodwork to what the builder intended.